Iran’s right-wing dominates upcoming presidential election

Iran’s 13th presidential election is set for 18 June. The race is between former parliamentary speaker Larijani and Chief Justice Raisi. Ahmadinejad might be the spoiler. For many Iranians, not voting is the only option to make their voice heard. Poverty, corruption and nepotism are rising.

Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Iran's presidential election of 18 June will be a contest among conservatives, with moderates (like outgoing President Hassan Rouhani) and pro-reform candidates forced to sit on the side-lines.

Most analysts agree that the winning candidate will be either the former Speaker of the Iranian Parliament, Ali Larijani, who appears to espouse some change, and his ultra-right-wing rival, Chief Justice Ebrahim Raisi. A third candidate, former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, might play the spoiler, if he is allowed to run, by drawing support in the country’s rural areas.

Under the regime’s constitution, a president can hold office only for two consecutive terms (eight years). This is 13th presidential election since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

The president heads the government, but is subordinate to the Supreme Leader, a post currently held by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The latter wields the real power, in both domestic and foreign policy fields.

According to Article 99 of the constitution, the Guardian Council vets the candidates. So far, almost 600 people have applied to run, including 40 women. All must be Shia Muslim and loyal to the regime and its laws.

Only a few names will end up on the ballot paper, approved by the regime, especially candidates close to the Revolutionary Guards (Pasdarans). Hitherto, no woman has been allowed to run for the office.

Raisi and Larijani will vie for support focusing on the economy and Iran’s position in the Middle East and the World.

Raisi favours an autarchic Islamic Republic, ready to challenge the West and the United States everywhere and on every issue.

Larijani seems more open to détente and dialogue with Iran’s historical rivals, and to a more open market-oriented economy.

The former speaker recently proposed more openness in terms of 'social freedoms', the right-wing’s bête noire, which for him is something “extremely important”.

In reality, the election campaign increasingly looks like a power struggle between two factions close to the supreme leader, with a large segment of the population showing a growing lack of disinterest and greater disillusionment towards the election itself.

For many observers, parliamentary and presidential elections in Iran have become a choice between greater and lesser evils, between candidates pre-selected by the Guardian Council for their loyalty to the party line.

Frustrated by the limited power of their elected representatives, the failure to deliver on promises, and the absence of significant changes in the lives of ordinary citizens, voters are left only with the option of staying away from June's presidential vote.

Opinion polls and social media debates reveal that a substantial portion of the population could boycott the vote as the only possible form of protest, this especially true for young and urban voters, who show the greatest dissatisfaction with an economy that has been sunk by US sanctions.

Little has changed in recent months since Democrat Joe Biden replaced Republican Donald Trump at the White House. The latter withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and pushed a policy of maximum pressure on Tehran.

Meanwhile, in Iran, state repression is on the rise, as are poverty, corruption and nepotism.

People are more and more frustrated over the incompetence of politicians, not least for the government’s bungling of the pandemic, so that Iran has one of the highest rates of coronavirus infection and COVID-19-related deaths in the Middle East.